In 1998 Flanders signed a general cooperation agreement with UNESCO. It was the first instance of a regional government within the multilateral organisation, entering into a formal contract of this kind. One year later - on 19 September 1999 - UNESCO and Flanders (Department of Economy, Science and Innovation, EWI), implemented the agreement by setting up the Flanders UNESCO Science Trust Fund (FUST) for the support of UNESCO's activities in the field of Science. The fund is approaching the end of the fifth phase (2019-2023).
FUST is the result of the recognition by both the Government of Flanders and UNESCO of the importance of collaboration to achieve common global objectives. FUST provides additional resources for UNESCO to deliver on its strategic programme objectives (Medium-Term Strategy for 2014-2021) particularly contributing to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, communication and information in priority geographical areas. For the Government of Flanders, UNESCO provides the right vehicle to deliver on its international strategy, as a promoter of international cooperation and with more than seventy years of experience in coordinating global programmes.
The FUST Trust Fund serves four specific objectives.
- Strengthening science, technology and innovation systems and policies – nationally, regionally and globally (Strategic Objective 4)
- Promoting international scientific cooperation on critical challenges to sustainable development (Strategic Objective 5)
- Support inclusive social development, foster intercultural dialogue for the understanding [AKL1] of cultures and promote ethical principles (Strategic Objective 6)
- The FUST develops a special focus on the Man and Biosphere Programme, the International Hydrological Programme, the programme of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, and recently the UNESCO Global Geoparks, including the social aspects related to these activities. It aims to build/enhance Science Capacity in African and Latin American regions in order to increase their integration and cooperation with the UNESCO programmes objectives.
FUST supported Programmes
Since its establishment, projects have been financed under the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the International Hydrological Program (IHP), and the Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB). Recently, the project promoting Earth Science has also received support from FUST.
The IHP is the only intergovernmental programme of the UN system devoted to water research, water resources management, and education and capacity building, with particular attention to reflecting the needs of developing countries.
The MAB aims at ensuring a scientific basis for the improvement of the relationships between people and their environment globally, combining natural and social sciences, economics and education to improve human livelihoods and safeguard natural ecosystems, thus promoting innovative approaches to economic development that is socially and culturally appropriate and environmentally sustainable.
The mission of the IOC is to promote international co-operation and to co-ordinate programmes in research, services and capacity building, in order to learn more about the nature and resources of the ocean and coastal areas and to apply that knowledge for the improvement of management, sustainable development, the protection of the marine environment and the decision-making processes of its Member States. IOC is also mandated to coordinate the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, the ‘Ocean Decade’.
For over two decades, FUST has initiated more than twenty projects in the field of natural sciences and supported many small-scale activities to follow up on the completed programmes. Some of the well-known projects are the OceanTeacher Global Academy, DIPS, SPIN CAM (IOC), BRESEP (MAB), and CliMWaR (IHP).
Coordination mechanism and Budget
The UNESCO Science Trust Fund mechanism FUST provides stability and continuity for longer-term programmes while providing built-in flexibility to respond to unforeseen requirements in priority areas. Priority is given to activities that represent a true partnership between UNESCO, Flemish institutions, and beneficiary countries.
The implementation of the FUST programme is supported by a Steering Committee, consisting of at least two representatives from the Government of Flanders and an equal number from UNESCO representing the Extra-budgetary Section and the Science/IODE sector. The Steering Committee has an advisory role in the review of project proposals submitted for financial support under the FUST, monitoring of ongoing funded projects, and the overall FUST implementation. FUST Steering Committee members participate in steering committees and oversight bodies of sponsored projects. The steering committee convenes twice per year and invites relevant experts to assist in its work.